Canada Guarantees Quality of Drugs Imported to U.S.

The Canadian government has officially said that it will take responsibility to ensure the safety and quality of the growing flow of prescription drugs being exported to the United States, the Washington Post reports.

In a clarification long sought by U.S. officials, the Canadian health ministry said all imported drugs must be equally safe and effective whether they are for use by Canadians or for export.

Thousands of U.S. citizens have discovered that one way to beat the high cost of prescription drugs is to buy them from Canada, where the government controls drug prices. Americans are buying Canadian drugs either in person or through mail order over the Internet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about the safety and quality of some drugs coming over the border, but said it has limited power to stop Americans from buying them from Canada.

"We appreciate that [Canadian officials] are stepping up to this difficult challenge where we don''t have the regulatory authority, and they might," FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan, said. "The fact that they are explicitly stating that they are trying to assure safety and effectiveness not only for Canadians, but for the millions of prescriptions sold to Americans through Canada, is a potentially useful step."

Still, McClellan was unwilling to give the Canadian drugs a clean bill of health. "We still can''t assure safety and quality because the products go outside of our authority," he said. "The situation remains ''Buyer beware,'' and that''s not a good way to assure public health."

Congress has twice passed bills that would make it legal for people in the United States to reimport U.S.-made drugs from Canada, but the federal Department of Health and Human Services has raised concerns that the medicines'' safety could not be guaranteed, and the bills were never enacted.

McClellan said the Canadian sales to the American market already make up 1 percent to 2 percent of all U.S. drug purchases.

To read the full article in the Washington Post, click here.